Between the years 1850 to 1930, almost 1,300,000 Swedes
emigrated to America. America, in this case, meaning both the U.S. and
Canada. Around 200,000 returned, but more than 1,000,000 people had
left their homeland forever.
The cause of the emigration lies mainly in the large
over population of the Swedish countryside. The old fashioned farming
techniques were unable to support the population, and industry had not
yet entered the scene in earnest. Naturally, there were other reasons
why so many emigrated. Some examples include lack of religious
freedom, the new ordinance that made military service mandatory and
the restless labor market in the budding industrial community.
The voyage over the Atlantic started for most in Gothenburg. From
there, the emigrants traveled by boat to Hull, England. They then took
a train to Liverpool, England, where they ultimately boarded a larger
vessel that took them to New York. Of course there were other routes,
but this remained the most common until the Swedish-American Line
began direct travel from Gothenburg to New York in 1915.
When Swedish emigration began to be an emigration of the masses,
"The Frontier" had reached the Mid-West. This meant that
most Swedes settled there. Chicago, for example, was Sweden's second
largest city for a number of years, if you counted the number of
persons born in Sweden. Today, however, descendants of the emigrants
are scattered across the continent.
During the emigration years and the years directly
following, there were over 900 different newspapers published in
America that were written in Swedish. Furthermore, there were also a
large number of books published in Swedish. In America, Swedish
emigrants founded many parishes within different denominations. They
also founded a number of different schools that included, among other
things, six colleges. Today, five of the six colleges are still going
Local Swedish societies are found all over America. There are even
some, such as the Vasa Order of America, the Svithod Order, the
Swedish Culture Society, Svea, and many more that can be found on the
national level. The Swedish Council is an umbrella organization that
has been founded to include all of them.
As a result of the Swedish emigration, there are many high-class
museums found all around America. They include the American Swedish
Institute in Minneapolis, the Swedish American Museum in Chicago, the
Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, and the American Swedish Museum in
Philadelphia, which mainly reflects the Swedish-American colony time.
Genealogical research can be found at the Swenson Swedish Immigration
Research Center in Rock Island.